Conspiracy to Distribute Narcotics

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In the case of the United States v. Alvin Gaskins, Mr. Gaskins was convicted of conspiracy to distribute narcotics.  He appealed.  The court of appeals reversed his conviction because the prosecutor failed to prove that Gaskins knowingly entered into the conspiracy with the specific intent to distribute drugs. 


The facts of Gaskins’ case are as follows:


A jury convicted Gaskins of being a member of a conspiracy that supposedly consisted of more than 20 people and which lasted for about five years. At Gaskins’ trial, the prosecutor called 8 cooperating witnesses to testify and presented evidence of more than 14,000 intercepted telephone conversations, visual and video surveillance, and evidence seized during the execution of search warrants.

However, no evidence was presented putting Gaskins together with drugs, or with conversations about drugs, that were involved in the conspiracy. None of the 8 cooperating witnesses, many of whom pled guilty to participating in the conspiracy, described Gaskins as having any knowledge of the conspirators’ drug trafficking activities. Also, none of the recorded telephone conversations in which Gaskins participated mentioned drugs or drug transactions, whether in clear or coded language. Nor did any of the conversations of any other conspirators mention drugs or drug transactions in connection with Gaskins. No surveillance detected Gaskins engaging in drug transactions, in the presence of drugs, or engaging in any conspiratorial meetings. And despite the execution of multiple search warrants, including one at the apartment in which Gaskins lived, the government found no guns, drugs, or drug paraphernalia associated with Gaskins. Moreover, although there was substantial evidence of the wealth amassed by other conspirators, there was no such evidence regarding Gaskins. To the contrary, the only evidence was that he lived in a modest apartment with his mother.